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Now through 2024, all California fourth graders and their families can sign up for the California State Park Adventure Pass and visit 19 amazing state parks throughout the state for free for a full year – including the summer. Among the 19 parks is Empire Mine State Historic Park, the site of one of the oldest, deepest, and richest gold mines in California.  Located at 10791 E Empire St in Grass Valley, the park contains many of the mine’s buildings, the owner’s home and restored gardens, as well as the entrance to 367 miles of abandoned and flooded mineshafts. The park encompasses 856 acres of forested backcountry and 14 miles of trails – including easy hikes (for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding) – in the park.

When determining which park units would be selected to participate in the pilot program, State Parks reviewed several factors including a diverse list of park units that span the state geographically. By spreading the park units throughout the state, the department will be able to maximize participation by limiting the distance that would need to be travelled to the nearest participating park. State Parks was also mindful of including a diverse collection of park units in terms of park features. The final list includes beaches, museums, redwoods, off-highway vehicle recreation, hiking trails and important cultural history.

“We are so honored for Empire Mine State Historic Park to be included in this inaugural program,” said Jesse Locks, president of Sierra Gold Parks Foundation, the local cooperative association for Western Nevada County’s three state parks including Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park and South Yuba River State Park. “Empire Mine has so much to offer – from gold mining and local history to gorgeous gardens and scenic trails –all within a few minutes from downtown Grass Valley.”

Visitors to Empire Mine State Historic Park are encouraged to take in a 45-minute guided park tour. Estate Tours (available every eay at 11AM and on Saturday and Sunday at 11am and 1PM) give visitors a special peek inside the life and home of the owner of the mine. Step into the historic cottage and learn about the beautiful estate within a once working hardrock mine. While Mineyard Tours (available every day @ Noon and on Saturday and Sunday @ Noon and 2PM) takes visitors through the equipment and hard work needed for the profitable Empire mine to run. Afterwards is a great time to stop by the blacksmith shop and see our craftsmen at work. Tours start at the green benches inside the Park, and are first come first served, no reservations.

“The Adventure Pass allows us to focus on activities and programming specifically geared towards fourth graders and their families,” said Sam Bell, a park interpretive specialist at Empire Mine State Historic Park.  “This year we are launching several new ways for families to engage with the park including a scavenger hunt and storybook hike.  Be sure to keep an eye out for events at Empire Mine where we will have some hands-on activities, games and demonstrations.  These opportunities allow visitors to appreciate the park in a variety of ways whether they are learning how to make candles to understand life at the mine or taking a nature hike to appreciate our natural surroundings. Empire Mine is a fantastic resource full of local history and surrounded by natural beauty.  Our goal is to inspire fourth graders to spend more time at State Parks and recognize them as a valuable resource.”  

Applying for the free pass online is simple. All that is needed from a parent or guardian is a name, address, phone number and an email address. For individuals who do not have access to a smartphone, computer or printer, and/or do not have an email address to use when applying online, they can still apply for a pass by visiting a State Parks Pass Sales Office—https://www.parks.ca.gov/ for a list of locations—or by calling (800) 444-7275. Passes can also be obtained at the Empire Mine Visitors Center, 10791 E. Empire St, Grass Valley.

For detailed information on the program and the list of participating park units, please visit parks.ca.gov/AdventurePass. For more information on Empire Mine State Historic Park and Sierra Gold Parks Foundation go to www.sierragoldparksfoundation.org